Oct. 13, 2021

Free Kai Li, American held in China | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

Free Kai Li, American held in China | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

The detention and recent release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have alerted the world to China’s hostage diplomacy. American citizen Kai Li from New York has been unjustly detained in China since September 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that his detention is arbitrary and has called on the Chinese government to release Kai Li immediately. Kai Li’s family believe that he is being held as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the United States – this would be hostage diplomacy. We speak to his son, Harrison Li to find out how we can help free his father.

We discuss Kai Li’s arrest, the conditions of his detention including what the Chinese authorities call ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’, Kai Li’s numerous health conditions, being held without access to his lawyer, trumped up security charges, a secret trial, forced labour in prison, China’s hostage diplomacy as well as what US President Biden, the Senate, House of Representatives, businesses, journalists and the public can do to help bring Kai Li back home to New York.

If you prefer, you can watch the video version of this interview on YouTube

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Free Kai Li

Daren Nair: Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week and let you know how you can help bring them home. I'm Daren Nair and I've had the honor of campaigning with many of these families for years.

These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us. People who have never given up hope. People who will never stop working to reunite their families. And we will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. And now let's meet this week's guest.

Welcome to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. American citizen, Kai Li from New York has been unjustly detained in China since September 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that Kai Li's detention is arbitrary meaning that he is unjustly detained and this same United Nations working group has called on Chinese authorities to release Kai Li immediately.

The current China travel advisory issued by the US state department has a level three: reconsider travel rating. The first line of this US government travel advisory states the following: reconsider travel to the People's Republic of China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws. The following is also stated in this travel advisory.

The People's Republic of China government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including by carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and through the use of exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law. The PRC government uses arbitrary detention and exit bans to compel individuals to participate in PRC government investigations, pressure family members to return to the PRC from abroad. Influence PRC authorities to resolve civil disputes in favor of PRC citizens, and number four, gain bargaining leverage.

Over foreign governments. I say again, gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments. This U S state department issued travel advisory goes on and states the following: In most cases, US citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC.

And there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law. US citizens traveling or residing in the PRC, including Hong Kong may be detained without access to U S Consular services or information about the alleged crime. US citizens may be subjected to prolong interrogations and extended detention without due process of law. Foreigners in the PRC, including, but not limited to business people,

former foreign government personnel and journalists from Western countries have been arbitrarily interrogated and detained by PRC officials for alleged violations of PRC national security laws. The PRC has also threatened, interrogated, detained and expelled US citizens living and working in the PRC. Now that was the US state department issued travel advisory for China.

And the last point about arbitrary detention of business people, former foreign government personnel and journalists from Western countries is what we call state sponsored hostage-taking also known as hostage diplomacy. I'm joined today by Kai Li's son, Harrison Li, who is speaking to us from the west coast of the United States.

Harrison, as I say to all the family members I interview every week, I'm so sorry for what you, your father and your family are going through. We will do everything we can to help. Thank you for joining us. 

Harrison Li: Yeah, thank you very much for having me, Daren. It's really a great opportunity, to have the chance to share the story of my father's detention through your podcast.

And I appreciate you having me 

Daren Nair: Can you walk us through what happened to your father? 

Harrison Li: Yeah, of course. So my father was flying back home to Shanghai where he was born on September 9th, 2016. He had decided to go there on a last minute whim because his family was organizing a memorial to commemorate the one year anniversary of the passing of his mother, but he never got to even leave the airport.

As soon as he landed at Pudong international airport, he sent us a text saying he had landed but then nobody heard from him after that. We later learned from the Consulate, what had happened is that state security agents had taken my father directly from the airport without notifying anybody into what is called the residential surveillance at a designated location.

And on the surface, this practice known as RSDL for short may sound like house arrest but it is a far cry from house arrest. My father doesn't own any property in China. And as a result, the Chinese government said that that makes it possible for them to take him to an unknown location. A location known by nobody in the family, nobody in the U S consulate, nobody at all.

They take you to this unknown location. With zero access to any sort of legal counsel and interrogate you brutally every day and every night to try to get you to admit to whatever fabricated charges they have set up for you. And, you know, the United Nations has decried this practice of RSDL as torture because.

It's a form of enforced disappearance. Right. And you know, any society that wants to respect the rule of law, can't possibly do things like this, where you partially interrogate people without any access to legal counsel or due process. And, you know, in those first two and a half months, you know, I still don't know the full extent of what happened to my father, because the only way my father has been able to communicate with anybody outside of the prison.

Well, for. Two and a half years, the only way was through letters. And these letters were all routinely screened by the Chinese government. He would write them and sometimes they would never make it out. Other times they would take weeks or even months to get out. And the same went for letters that went to him from the family to my father.

And they all prohibited him from talking about the contents of his case. Anytime he would mention anything related to the case or related to hoping that the U S government would advocate for him, the letter will be rejected or quote unquote lost. And so to this day, we still don't know the full extent of what happened in RSDL, but you can read the accounts of many former victims of RSDL, including Peter Dahlin, who has described the practice as inhumane.

Interrogations happen in the middle of the night. Former victims have reported not being able to sit, being forced to stand at all hours, having a guard, watching them 24 7, even when they're going to the bathroom, not being able to sleep with their arms under their covers. You know, all these conditions are designed to break you as one former victim has put it and.

This needs to be more widely known. It can't be acceptable for a country like China. That's trying to gain global standing to be doing this to people. And it's, you know, it's unfortunately not just my father, but it's plenty of other foreign nationals. And it's plenty of also, um, people within China, um, including many activists of various natures and that's, that should not be acceptable.

After RSDL my father was transferred to a detention center and, you know, again, these detention centers are not, not very nice. I mean, they're not designed to hold people for extended periods of time, but my father spent 28 months there awaiting some sort of decision and progress in his case.

In this pre-trial detention center, my father was in a tiny cell with seven other prisoners. There's no furniture in there. He had to sleep on the cold, hard floor in the winter. In the summer. It gets regularly above 95 degrees in Shanghai with very, very high humidity. But no, there's, there's no climate control and there's nothing else to do in these detention centers.

It's just a cell. And so my father spent 28 months in this pre-trial detention center, trying to figure out what is going on. It wasn't until two or three months into a stint at the detention center in February of 2017, more than five months after his initial arrest, that my father was finally allowed to meet with some sort of legal counsel.

In the five months prior, the Chinese government had always said, allowing my father to meet with legal counsel would endanger their national security, but suddenly it was okay after five months with no movement on the case. Anyway, when my father finally did get to meet with his attorney, she noticed that the quote unquote state secrets that he had been accused of stealing were freely searchable on the Chinese internet, even.

Yeah, that's the Chinese internet, right? Even with all the censoring and the firewalls, this information is freely available to everyone. But the problem is that doesn't preclude the Chinese government from declaring whatever contents they want as state secrets, even retroactively previous example of this was the detention of US geologist, Xue Feng.

He was also subject to these trumped up state security charges. And he was accused of stealing some sort of database geological database that was freely available to the public. And that was not, you know, in any reasonable sense of the word, a secret, because it was something that had been used widely and discussed openly by both Chinese and Americans.

So that is the nature of China's quote unquote state security laws. I mean, they're just an excuse to detain foreign nationals for political leverage. As Daren mentioned in the U S department, US state department travel advisory anyway, after. Many months of no progress. We finally were told that there might be a trial that trial was postponed inexplicably twice.

But when my father was finally tried, no sentencing verdict was given, there is an indefinite delay between the trial and the sentencing. So that set off another whole year of anxiously waiting for just when my father would finally figure out what his fate was in those 11 months, they kicked the case back for further investigation, but nothing was ever found.

They'd already interrogated him every day for two and a half months under RSDL. And there, there was, there's nothing more to talk about, but it was just a way to buy time. And unfortunately on July 25th, 2018, we heard from the Consulate that my father had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, a fine of 50,000 Yuan and deportation.

At this point, my father has spent more than five years. In detention, he has served half of his sentence yet. There's absolutely been no progress in getting my father out. He is a very strong man. He really tries the absolute best to keep a positive attitude in the situation, despite all that he's going through.

I mean, you can see in the calls that he has with us from the prison that he really tries hard. To make the best of the situation, but it's, it's certainly not easy, especially not from my father. He suffered from numerous health issues in prison. The first of which is, a small stroke known as lacunar infarction, which was diagnosed by the prison late last year.

At the same time, he was also diagnosed with hypertension, which was a shock to us because before he had been arrested, my father. He was known for having low blood pressure. My father is also reported being only able to sleep for three or four hours a night because his prison cell is shared with a dozen prisoners and there's still no climate control.

And so it's sometimes just unbearably cold or unbearably hot, and it makes it impossible to get adequate sleep. Prison diet has ranged from bad to truly horrific. He complains of cabbage, cabbage, cabbage, and just trying to eat white rice to try his best and fill up. And, you know, these are the sorts of conditions that my father is being arbitrarily subject to all because the Chinese government wants some sort of political gain.

And if there is any doubt in anyone's mind that the Chinese government is in fact doing this for political and not criminal reasons, I would say, well, just look at what happened with the Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Michael Kovrig faced almost identical charges to my father.

The sentence was almost identical, except he got one extra year in prison, but it turns out none of that mattered. So the Chinese government, they put Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on a plane back to Canada. As soon as the Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was allowed to return to China. This is a very clear signal from the Chinese government, that they are not afraid to tell everybody that they do this, that they arbitrarily detain foreign nationals to get what they want.

And that has to be viewed as completely unacceptable by the U S government. The US government needs to take a firmer stance in standing up for its citizens. Arbitrarily detained in China by making it impossible. To cooperate on anything. As long as China continues, this unjust, immoral practice of arbitrary detention.

Now you 

Daren Nair: mentioned at the beginning, your father was born in China and like many immigrants, he came over to the U S in search of a better life. Can you talk to us about your father's background, as in what did he study? What did he do for living? etc 

Harrison Li: sure. So my father was born in Shanghai, China, and that's where his entire family, besides himself, his wife and myself live, he immigrated to the United States in 1989.

He got a master's degree at Eastern Michigan university and then made his way to New York in search of good job opportunities. Like many immigrants. He took a brief stint selling life insurance in New York at MetLife, before he got back into the aerospace industry, he had had some connections back in China from his college days in that industry.

And so he found his way in a stint with Spectral Labs and Spectral Labs is a subsidiary of Boeing in the United States based out of California. And my father served as an independent contractor in an effort to market and sell the equipment that Spectral Labs was producing to various research institutes in China.

This is something that my father had done for over 25 years. At the time of his arrest, he had established very good working relationships with many people, both. In Spectral Lab and Boeing, and also with the institutes that were the clients in China. But I think it's important to emphasize this is not some super fancy multimillion dollar business.

This was a one man business. My father was just a marketing representative. He took a very small fraction of whatever he was selling, to the Chinese government. You know, this was just. A very, very small segment of the business of Spectral Lab and Boeing that my father was facilitating due to his background as somewhat of Chinese heritage who can speak the language, but also with fluent English skills, having lived in United States and studying in the United States for so long.

Most of the time my father spent his days on Long Island managing two gas stations. That was his main daytime job in the United States. He would go back to China a couple of times a year for the Spectral Lab work, but it was not something that consumed the most of his time, but I think it's important to emphasize.

That my father is just a completely ordinary man. He had no high-level political connections whatsoever with anybody in either the U S government or the Chinese government. And the scary thing for everybody should be that the Chinese government is willing to take these ordinary people and take them hostage when it's politically convenient for them to do so, regardless of who they are.

Or what they could have possibly done. And that, that is really scary. 

Daren Nair: You touched on what the U S government can do better to bring your father home. You mentioned holding governments like China accountable for unjustly detaining American citizens, like your father. What else can the U S government do to bring your father home?

Harrison Li: Look, this practice of hostage diplomacy is an extremely complex geopolitical issue, especially by the Chinese. And I don't have specific policy suggestions to offer the U S government. But what I can tell them is this, that whatever possible needs to be done, to send the message to the Chinese government, that what you're doing to my father is completely unacceptable.

And we cannot do anything in good faith. As long as my father continues to be detained in China. The Chinese government will probably respond by saying something like, , Kai Li's case has followed. All aspects of Chinese law, but China is an independent society ruled by the rule of law. And we request that the United States not interfere in China's internal affairs.

I mean, this is something we've, we've seen from the Chinese time and time again on these sorts of issues. But of course, this is not an internal affair to the Chinese. My father is a US citizen, not a Chinese citizen. He's not a dual national, he's a full US citizen. And. No, this was not a case governed by the rule of law.

The main judge has told my father many times that she really wishes she could have gotten, gave a better outcome to my father, but she couldn't. And of course, she'll deny ever having ever said that. But my father has, has told us that that's what she's literally told him on multiple occasions.

And I mean, it's just. Nonsensical for anyone to possibly believe that whatever the Chinese government is doing is really covered by the rule of law. Because I mean, these state security charges unfortunately have affected many foreign nationals, you know, throughout the last couple of decades. I mean, it's not a new practice.

Even if the two Michaels have made the practice much more well known in the international community, it doesn't start with them. This goes back. 20 years to the cases of people like David Bu Dongwei or Xue Feng the geologist that I mentioned more recently, there was the American, Sandy Phan-Gillis.

She was released in April of 2017 after they arrested my father. And what happened the day she was released. There was a leak, a news leak about my father in a minor newspaper. That was factually incorrect saying things like my father had studied in California, which he never did and that he was going to China and to gather information, to bring back to the United States, which is categorically false.

But the fact that there was this news leak by some quote unquote uninformed source suggests that the Chinese government is really trying to make some sort of political play out of my father's detention. And that practice is just sick. The U S government needs to make that stop. However they can. It can't be conditional

kind of negotiation. It just needs to be an absolute, no, go for the U S government, because what is the message that the U S government is sending to Americans in particular, the business community. If they won't stand up for people like my father. I absolutely agree with 


Daren Nair: Harrison, in cases like your father's, families tend to get assistance from the US Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

So this is a specific position and office within the State Department. Have you been getting the help you need from the U S special Envoy for Hostage Affairs? 

Harrison Li: Yeah. So I've been in contact with the special presidential Envoy, also known as SPEHA for about a year now. , I am very glad that they finally agreed to take on my father's case previously.

They simply refused to take on any China cases at all. When I tried to speak with them a couple of years back, that was the response I got. So I'm glad that that has changed, that their mandate has expanded to include these cases of arbitrary detentions by foreign governments rather than non-state groups, which are more typically classified as hostage cases.

I speak weekly with SPEHA and I'm very glad to have that communication with them.

Unfortunately, over the phone, especially there's very little of that you can really gain in terms of real information or a real gauge of how. How the U S government is doing now, I've gotten some concrete assurances for instance, that the US government has regularly raised my father's case. You know, at levels from the, from the working level, all the way up to people like Secretary Blinken.

They've all raised my father's case on numerous occasions and asked for my father's unconditional release. And for that, I am supremely grateful, but clearly it's just not enough. And. I am. I've made this very clear to the U S government that it's not just about raising my father's case.

It's about actually finding a way to secure his release and making the Chinese government realize that this practice is unacceptable. I believe there's been some progress towards this front. But nothing concrete. And you know, it's been more than five years now and it's just beyond frustrating every day.

To realize that my father wakes up every day in that prison cell with no sense of when he might get out and.

It's not like my father can say, oh, I committed a crime. You know, I'm serving my time. It's that's, it's obviously not the case. The case is that it's an arbitrarily wrongful arrest and he's just the victim of this hostage diplomacy. 

Daren Nair: Now your father hasn't had an in-person visit even from the US Consulate since January, 2020.

Is that right?

Harrison Li: Yeah, that is correct. You know, since the COVID outbreak in China, January, 2020, as you mentioned, my father has not gotten any in-person visits from anybody previously. He was allowed the monthly in person 30 minute consular visit. Since then the Consulate has only been offered to do seven and a half minute phone calls with my father.

That's obviously not an adequate substitute for a 30 minute in-person consular visit. And we've tried many, many times to lobby the US consulate to push for at a minimum extending the calls to at least 30 minutes, the same length as a regular in-person visit would be. But the Chinese government makes excuses saying things like, oh, well, you know, the technology for the calls is only allows for seven and a half minute calls.

And of course the logical solution to that will be okay, well, gee, you can do four calls back to back, right. And that will add up to 30 minutes, but clearly the Chinese government is not interested. In doing this. And I say that's a real shame because it's, like I said before, there are very, very few channels from my father to communicate with the outside world.

Now that he's finally in the prison, he is allowed three monthly, seven and a half minute calls to his family. But these calls are not a time to freely speak your mind. Because they are all routinely recorded and monitored by the Chinese authorities. Last year, my father expressed to me in a call on my birthday that he hoped President Trump would raise his case at the G 20 summit in Chile.

After he made that statement, he told us on a subsequent call that the authorities had listened in on that call, which was conducted entirely in English. They translated it into Chinese, played it back to them and told them, please stop doing this or else we'll have to punish you. So they threatened my father with punishment for simply speaking out to his son and urging the government to help.

So that is the nature of the calls and to my understanding these consular calls are on the exact same system. And in any case, the previous consular visits in person were also regularly, completely monitored by, by a Chinese official. And if the consulate or my father said something that they didn't like, they would tell them to stop and talk about something else.

So that is the nature of my father's only communications with the outside world. So there is a part of me that. Really fears for how my father is really doing, because he has an incentive to hide the true nature of what's going on in there. And I just can't imagine things being any less bad than what the media has reported about Qingpu prison, where my father's being held.

So you may recall at the end of 2019, a six-year-old girl in the United Kingdom found a note in a Christmas card she'd bought from the supermarket saying we are foreigners at Qingpu prison making these cards, and we need your help. The Chinese government later went on. A full blown campaign to deny this.

My father even reported that after this came out in the prison, they started giving them really good food for about a week. He finally got to eat some chicken legs, even some lamb chops. But you know, this was all for a show and I've talked to a former prisoner of Qingpu prison who served concurrently with my father and.

He can confirm that those allegations of prisoners being forced to make Christmas cards is 100% true. Despite what the Chinese government said. And one of the most angrying parts of his day would be every evening when the Chinese officials would force all the prisoners to go into this large room and watch the news, which was Chinese propaganda.

And when they all saw. The officials vehemently denying the use of forced labor in the prisons. They couldn't help, but just laugh that showed up on the news in the very news that they were watching inside the prison. That is the twisted irony of the situation. I think that conditions may have improved slightly since then.

My father says he does spend most of his time managing the library, which is a great improvement, but regardless, I think. This should be clear. You know, Qingpu prison is not a nice place to be. It's not a place for anyone innocent to spend any amount of time and heightens the urgency for the release of may father.

Thank you for 

Daren Nair: that. Now the Senate and House of Representatives have both passed bipartisan resolutions calling on Russia to release Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, two Americans and former US Marines wrongfully detained in Russia. Should they be doing something similar for your father in China? 

Harrison Li: 100%.

Yes. I mean, there's no reason why the U S Congress should not condemn the practice of arbitrary detention in China with the same force that they have with Russia. You know, with China, there has been this long standing perception of. You know, maybe beating them over the bush about these kinds of things. It's not the most productive way to resolve these kinds of issues.

And for many years, in fact, our family really struggled with that. You'll notice that we kept silent for two and a half years after my father's arrest, because we, we believe that, you know, maybe keeping quiet would increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome to my father's case. Clearly that didn't happen.

And what also, as I mentioned earlier, the Chinese government is not ashamed of what it's doing. It. Tacitly admitted to doing this when they released the Michaels hours after Meng Wanzhou was on the plane back to China. So there should be no doubt that the Chinese government isn't afraid of the negative press coverage.

It might get for continuing to take foreign nationals hostage. It's something that they actively embrace as something that they're doing. And that is the most sickening part of all this that has come to everybody's realizations in the last couple of weeks. I mean, I think nobody expected such a blatant display of hostage diplomacy.

Even the experts people thought, okay, well maybe, you know, they'll eventually find a way to release the Michaels in a couple of months once they figure out a way to do so. But no, that, that, that, that didn't happen. And so there should be no qualms against the U S government from speaking out on behalf of my father with the force that they have for other Americans detained in other countries.

Or even the Canadian Michaels and that, that is the message that I want to send. And so for those of you who are watching this podcast, please, please, please share my father's story with all of your friends and your family. If you had an 

Daren Nair: opportunity to speak to US President Joe Biden, what would you say to him?

Harrison Li: Well, I would tell President Biden about the situation in my father's case, which I'm sure he is well aware of, but I would let him know that, you know, I mean, he's talked with president Xi twice in the last couple of weeks, and I would tell him, you know, you need to make sure that the safety of Americans in China.

Is at the very forefront of whatever discussions you have with the Chinese government. And I would urge him to unconditionally tell President Xi that they need to release my father or else the United States can't cooperate with the Chinese in any fashion, because how can they, when they are actively endangering the lives of Americans for completely arbitrary and political reasons.

What can 

Daren Nair: journalists and the news media do to help? The reason I ask that is because I've seen a lot of media coverage about other families. I've not seen much about your father. So what can the news media 

Harrison Li: do to help?

Sure. I mean, you know, the, the biggest job that the news media has is to spread awareness about. Public situations of interest. And so I think the best that they can do is simply report on my father. Tell them about all of that. I've just mentioned because you know, this, this, this situation is, is clearly it's not right.

It just needs more attention. I mean, I think hopefully everybody can see from the facts of the case that there, there is, you know, there are no two sides about this case, right? I mean, my father is not a criminal and this is a clear blatant political act by the Chinese government and that needs to be made more well-known unfortunately I've had some trouble in the past to get journalists to cover my father's story, because there was nothing eminently developing in the case.

But I think that's a very narrow-minded way of, of seeing the situation. I mean, sure. You might not be able to report on a specific event, like, you know, a trial or a sentence or things like that. But the fact of the matter is we've seen a great uptick in the cases of arbitrary detention, especially in China with the cases of the two Michaels, the situation has gotten to the top.

Of the minds of the public yet I've seen articles out there saying things like, will Americans be next in China's hostage diplomacy? No, there's no next Americans have been and continue to be held in this hostage diplomacy practice, including my father, of course. And that just needs to be made more.

Well-known. By the news media, and I I'm perplexed as to why this is not an issue that has gotten more coverage because, you know, even the major American newspapers have been very happy to give endless press coverage, to, you know, to the Canadians and other foreign nationals, wrongfully detained, and also Americans detained in other countries.

But this issue of Americans detained in China. Of which my father is one of the longest standing victims remains relatively unknown. And the news media needs to change that. 

Daren Nair: What should US businesses with operations and employees in China be doing? Because this could affect their employees. Any one of them could be taken the same way your father was.

So what should these businesses be doing?

Harrison Li: Yeah. I mean, you know, these businesses first and foremost need to be aware of the situation. And like I said before, it doesn't start with my father. Unfortunately. I mean, there have been multiple cases in the past of other American business people being arbitrarily detained in China. So awareness that this is an issue is the first step.

And the next step is well to realize hey, like how can we do business in China? If our employees can be subject to arbitrary detention and exit bans. And, you know, I think that's a risk that most major businesses with large operations in China haven't internalize, because like I said, this is just not simply not a super well-known issue, but once that awareness is reached, I think.

You know, it'll just be common business sense that they need to reevaluate the relationship with China. And, you know, if there's that sort of pressure from the business community that could certainly help prevent the situation of hostage diplomacy from the Chinese government, from having the same benefits that the Chinese government thinks it currently does.

Daren Nair: So for our listeners and viewers who want to help, how can they keep up to date with your 

Harrison Li: campaign? Yeah. So first of all, you can follow Free Kai Li on social media.

There is a Free Kai Li page on Facebook, as well as a Twitter whose handle is Free Kai Li, with regular updates to my father's situation. I would urge all of you who follow those channels to, to share and retweet everything that I mention so that my father's case can get the awareness that it deserves.

There's also an informational website at www.freekaili.org with more background about the case. And in case you're interested in learning more about the facts, additionally there is a petition on change.org, that urges president Biden to free my father from arbitrary detention and Chinese prison. So you can sign that and share that as another way to spread awareness for my father.

Daren Nair: So we're almost at the end of our interview. Do you have anything else you'd like to say, 

Harrison Li: Harrison?

I would just like to reiterate sort of the main points of what I was trying to convey on this podcast. First and foremost, my father is an innocent US citizen, subject to political measures in China. His detention is wrongful. He spent more than five years without his family. That's almost a quarter of my life.

You know, I'm only 23 years old. My father was first taken away from me when I was just 18. I was in. The junior year of my college, my father had just sent me the week before. And you know, after that day, September 9th, 2016, my entire world turned upside down. And the sad part is there's no way to justify it other than the fact that my father was a victim.

It's like, it's like, you know, some freak accident. It's like a strike, a bolt of lightning hit my father or something like that because. To this day, there's just no indication of why my father is targeted. Now, if the cases of any other Americans in the past who have been subject to arbitrary detention is any guide.

It does seem like there is no pattern.

All of these former detainees, they were not high profile people with strong political connections or. have a lot of money, none of that was true. And that is important to realize that the Chinese government is willing to target completely ordinary Americans, charged them with quote unquote, endangering national security, and then hold them for political leverage.

And these endangering national security charges. I should emphasize. They're a very convenient tool. For the Chinese government, because in their laws, there are myriad exceptions that applied to cases where the defendant is accused of endangering national security, for instance, endangering national security allows for RSDL.

In addition to RSDL, it allows them to be barred access to an attorney and make sure that their trials can be secret. So, yeah, my father was tried in secret. The US Consulate tried to attend because according to the US China Consular convention of 1980, they should be able to do so, but no, the Chinese government said, well, you know, this is a case of endangering national security, so we can't let you attend for, for our own national security.

These charges are bogus. They're just a way for the Chinese government to do what it wants. And that is to hold foreign nationals hostage for political gain. And that is the real tragedy here that this practice has been present for so many years. It continues to be.

Omnipresent. And in fact, increasing and the victims are people like us and my father, the families whose lives are turned upside down just because the Chinese government wants to extract concessions out of the United States. That is a gross human rights violation. And that needs to be made much, much more well known 

Daren Nair: to our listeners.

If you would like to send messages of solidarity to Harrison and his family, please post them on Twitter using the hashtag Pod Hostage Diplomacy, and we will share them with him. Harrison, we really appreciate your time and hope your father comes home soon. We will be right here by your side until then.

Harrison Li: Thank you for joining us. Thank you very much, Daren. Take care.

Daren Nair: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We're not just a podcast, we're a community. If you're on Twitter and would like to post a message of solidarity to the families, or have any questions for us, please tweet it using the hashtag #PodHostageDiplomacy, and we will get back to you.

If you like what we're trying to do, please do consider supporting the show financially. You can do this using the 'Support The Show' link in the description of this podcast episode. We're grateful for any contributions, no matter how small. Thanks again for listening and we'll be back next week. Take care.